The career of an NFL QB can be likened to the days of unregulated mining, when people worked in unhealthy conditions for hours on end. It put food on the table, but often ended some coal miner’s life as his body was battered from years of ingesting foulness.
People were exploited in the coal industry and it was big money for the mining companies. The cycle of coal mine deaths, environmental disaster and regional poverty continues to this day. In 2010, safety cutbacks at a Massey Energy mine in West Va. led to the deaths of 29 miners.
It’s big business eating dudes up and spitting them out when they become a nuisance, get sick, or are no longer super efficient.
NFL QB’s can relate. Especially the titans who try to have a steel cage match with Mother Nature and Father Time and insist on, hanging on. There was a growing list of analysts and fans who suggested that Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning was a legendary coal miner, who was on his last legs.
The icon had thrown a TD in 51-straight games before throwing none in three of his last five games dating back to the 2014 season.
After looking quite unimpressive and weaker than usual (175 yards passing, 0 TDs) in Denver’s WK 1, narrow defeat of Baltimore, Manning merkers came out of the woodwork. One of the more vocal proponents of the theory that Manning is done and the Broncos are in trouble is TSL columnist Rob Parker.
On FOX Sports Live, Parker went as far as to suggest that the Broncos should start looking for a replacement.
With all of the controversy concerning football’s all-time stat machine, Thursday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs must have carried a nervous and anxious emotion for Peyton, similar to his first game of his rookie season in 1998.
His relevancy as an NFL QB – a trade he mastered and advanced and finessed with a surgeon’s diligence – was being questioned. His standing as a potential Super Bowl winning QB was on blast.
So what did the missile launcher turned “duck chucker” do in front of a nationally televised audience with every NFL eye squarely on him and ready to witness the funeral of Peyton Manning?
He simply flossed vintage and brought Denver back from a 14-0 deficit and then masterfully orchestrated the tying drive with less than a minute to go.
When a Denver player scooped and scored on KC beast Jamal Charles’ second fumble of the game, it sealed one of the most meaningful regular season games of Manning’s storied career.
It was business as usual for a dude who's enjoyed more praise and endured more criticism than most superstar athletes. He wants us to believe that he's taking it all in stride.
“The talk doesn’t really get to me,” Manning said after leading a 10-play, 80-yard drive to tie the Chiefs with 36 seconds remaining in regulation. “A lot of other people read it...I don’t really read a lot of papers, watch a lot of analysis. You get some friends and teammates and it seems to make them quite angry, and they like to tell me that they’re mad. … But it doesn’t affect me."
The old King was 26-35 for 256 yards and 3 TDs in leading Denver to an NFL–record 15th consecutive road win. He started heating up as the game went on and by the fourth quarter he was getting the ball everywhere it needed to be.
With a 10-yard pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders midway through the third quarter at Arrowhead Stadium, Manning became the second quarterback in NFL history to surpass 70,000 yards passing in his career. Brett Favre holds the record with 71,838, another milestone Manning is expected to decimate this season.
Stevie Wonder can see that Manning isn’t the young gunner he was a decade ago. He wasn’t a 40-year-old coming off major neck surgery 10 years ago either, but if anyone has evolved with the craft, it’s Peyton who has remained the prototype QB and despite the influx of spread QBs, maintained the integrity and superiority of the pocket passer in the NFL.
Manning is quick to credit his defense.
“The defense is so much better than last year,” an elated and vindicated Manning said after the game on NFL Network. “The superlatives go on and on about our great team defense…sacks, tip balls, pressure on the QB. “
And that will be the recipe if Denver is going to get to one last Super Bowl with Peyton at the helm; A malicious defense and Manning’s transformation from Superman gunner to veteran game manager.
It can be a beautiful thing because football has a mental component that Manning can still dominate despite his age and skill erosion. If Trent Dilfer can win a Super Bowl, then Peyton Manning with 80 percent of his physical abilities and 100 percent of his mental faculties (and some ridiculous weapons on offense) can do it too. Don’t count him out just yet. You know how stubborn “old” men are.